• Shawn Dell Joyce artist

Seeing Color as Value (and improving your painting with it!)

Nature doesn't always give you the perfect view.

Sometimes you have to improve upon it by playing with the color or the light to juice it up

from "beautiful" to "breathtaking!"

In my upcoming Color As Value workshop at Wallkill River School in Montgomery, and en plein air at Olana State Historic Site, I'll be demonstrating the concept of seeing color as value and using this to change the time of day in a plein air painting, as well as to make paintings more intriguing.

Lets start with this reference photo (which just happens to be the one I'll be demonstrating in the workshop as well!)



Study the photo and ask yourself:

-Where is the focal point?

-What complementary colors stick out to me

-Where’s the darkest darks

-What can I improve?

Make a value sketch identifying 5 values from dark to light:

In my studio, I have a color/value chart I made up of some of my most frequently used colors. This is a chart I refer to when I think the color of my subject is bland, and needs a little spicing up. Out en plein air, I often change the time of day of a painting to dawn or dusk to enliven the light.


-I decided to use Yellow/Purple palette

-I decided to improve upon the photo reference by adding red mist, fading out the treeline, making the sun sparkle, creating textural strokes.

-focal point is played up with scumbling

-looking for a mood more than accuracy “Impression not Perfection”

-mark making is important for textures and lost and found edges

-added some variations on violet (alizarin crimson mist and blue violet sky color)


It helps to know color theory, and experiment with color temperature. The more you enhance your subject, the easier it becomes. The biggest challenge is really just diverting from reality and painting what you wish you could see, more than what you are looking at.


This concept is similar to the movie "What Dreams May Come" where the main character is an artist who gets to physically run through her paintings. If you could create your own reality (and you can!) what would it look like? Wouldn't it be a bit more romantically beautiful, with rich color and warm light?


Make your own chart, and see how it affects your work. If your not sure where to begin, join me in Aug. for this fun two-day workshop in NY at Wallkill River School, my old Alma Mater!




© 2020 by Shawn Dell Joyce.Shawndelljoyce@gmail.com